Gifts of goodness, gifts of grace

steve holt 014Some days I have a keen sense of observation. Keener than usual. I notice every movement of my babies’, especially my big one who seems to be growing at an outrageously unfair rate. As I type I am watching him set up for his guitar practice—it is a painstaking process for a 2-year old and one he does every single day. He gets out his music stand, puts his book on it, then finds four or five of Papa’s guitar pedals and puts them on the floor by the music stand. He finds a guitar stand and puts his guitar (ukulele) on it. He gets the peg winder out of his guitar case and “tunes” his guitar. He looks for a pick and then is ready to play, tapping his foot and making good use of the pick that looks big in his toddler hand.

He has moved on to the piano, clearing all of my music to make space for his own. He climbed on the bench all by himself and is playing away, occasionally stopping to look for my approving smile and words of affirmation. He doesn’t bang the keys—he explores them, playing high notes and low notes, loud and soft. He will sit there for 30 or 40 minutes plunking out compositions with his index fingers.  He just turned to me, laughed, and clapped for himself. “Well done, Von; that is nice music,” I say, and I mean it. He is now singing gleefully with a big grin on his face. I shared this weekend on Facebook that he finally sang his first song—not “Twinkle Twinkle” or “Jesus Loves Me” like I had expected. Instead, he belted out part of the chorus of New Kids on the Block’s “The Right Stuff”: Oh oh oh oh oh. Oh oh oh oh.

He’s got amazing rhythm and I love hearing him develop it in his baby ways.2nd bday 032This kind of day makes me a slave to my babies in a good way. It seems I can’t help but watch them. I have a laundry basket of cloth diapers waiting to be assembled, and I really should mop the kitchen floor. I overcooked the lasagna noodles, so distracted was I by these little ones. My eyes seem glued to them, I gather them in my arms for as many cuddles and kisses as they’ll tolerate.

v 012I’ve been wondering what it means to be happy, to take delight in things in this broken world. I know it’s dangerous to allow my heart to become too attached to anything here—I could lose any or all of it without a moment’s notice, including my beautiful babies. I know that these gifts are meant to point me toward Jesus, that He is my source of true, unending joy and hope. I know that He is the giver of all good things. But I struggle to live in this world that demands our attentions—and rightly so—to help carry burdens and soothe hurting hearts and walk alongside suffering people, and all while experiencing our own sadnesses.

This past weekend marked the second anniversary of the stillbirth of our nephew. Timothy would be 6 weeks younger than Von. His mama and I enjoyed being pregnant together and plotting how these two boys would be best friends. We imagined their faces and personalities, and I got them matching outfits. While we miss the presence of Timothy, my heart aches most for his mama; I can imagine Timothy’s face, but I can’t imagine his mama’s grief. And in all honesty, I don’t want to.

When we suffer such impossible grief, how do we reconcile the gifts of goodness in this ugly world that could snatch away our gifts tomorrow? Sometimes I feel like happiness is a consolation prize meant to comfort me until the next shoe drops. I struggle to believe God is benevolent and I try to pound into my head that His definition of Goodness is bigger, wider, more comprehensive than mine. That I can only see the here and now and a lot of my suffering is caused not by the absence of something or someone I love but my lack of trust in a loving God who promises eventual Goodness and Glory that I will not only finally understand but revel in.

In the middle of writing this, Von stopped playing the piano for a moment. “Mama? Mama?” he called. I looked up and couldn’t help but smile at his little voice, his dimpled hands on the keys, his smooth blonde eyebrows raised in question. “Yes, my babylove.” He patted the piano bench next to him. “Mama!! MAMA!!” He was asking me to sit next to him. How could I resist?!

I sat next to him, my right arm around him to reach the keys. We copied each other’s rhythms and notes, observing each other’s hands on the keys. His content head rested against the side of my breast, safe and happy.

My son is no consolation prize—he is a gift of grace. Yes, a gift that could be taken tomorrow, but a gift that has eternal significance as well as significance to me in this moment. This baby boy proves to me that God is Good, even if I don’t understand what that means. I don’t need to understand—I just need to believe, to trust, to be thankful for the gifts of grace I have been entrusted with in this minute. That gives me the strength to trust that if my gifts are gone tomorrow, maybe God will continue to be generous in giving me the faith in Him to get through loss. And the faith to focus on my biggest Gift, the Gift of Grace that will ultimately satisfy my every longing and that will heal the scabby wounds of my ever-grieving heart.  016

Mundane Faithfulness